Report on Effect of Pandemic on Women Business Owners
Collaborating entities at the federal, state and local organization levels released a California state report this summer conveying a picture of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is still having on women business owners.
The study shares how the issue of women’s participation in the workplace is critical to every community’s economic success, but systemic inequity prevents women entrepreneurs from fully contributing. Crises, such as a pandemic, exacerbate the consequences of inequity, but there’s a lack of enough specific data to inform targeted solutions. Barriers to women in business include limited access to critical resources and disproportionate caregiving.
“Many of the hardest hit, as well as slowest recovering, industries have a high number of women-owned businesses and women entrepreneurs,” said Nancy Swift, chair of California’s Women’s Business Centers and executive director at JEDI in Northern California that hosts a Women’s Business Center. “The country’s Chamber of Commerce President Suzanne Clark said, ‘We cannot allow this pandemic to set back a generation of entrepreneurial women.’ We must take this information we’ve gathered and synthesized to create responses at all levels. If we don’t, we’ll be doing a disservice to everyone.”
A Team Approach
The U.S. Small Business Administration, California Office of the Small Business Advocate, California’s Small Business Development Center and California’s Women’s Business Centers funded and conducted the study with San Diego’s Kim Center for Social Balance.
“We saw a need for actionable information that we could supply with a study like what the Kim Center provides,” said Daniel Fitzgerald, regional director of the San Diego & Imperial Small Business Development Center Network, which helped spearhead the project. “California’s economy and families will benefit greatly from making sure all intersections of identity get fair consideration for business capital and support.” With a survey sample that was small business owners and leaders statewide, the aim is to help California decision-makers understand which issues most urgently impacted California’s small businesses. Searching for Women-Oriented Solutions
“We know women have to work twice as hard as their male counterparts to receive half the recognition - and more importantly, half the resources and support,” said Tara Lynn Gray, director of California’s Office of the Small Business Advocate. “As California supports the economic recovery of our 4.2 million small businesses, equity and access are among our top priorities. But our efforts are best supported by working to fully understand the barriers and challenges women business owners face, enabling us to create better frameworks for statewide economic activities moving forward.”
Findings included how since March 2020, women-owned and -led businesses have faced significant disadvantages compared to men-owned and -led businesses in accessing critical resources for sustainability and success. Women of color and primary caregivers (predominantly women) particularly benefited less from available funding than other groups as well as juggling greater non-work-related demands on their time.
“The report describes how female founders were already doing more with less and how we’re underutilizing female enterprise,” Swift added. “The double-down of the COVID-19 pandemic is not going to deter us from doing all we can to advocate for and support these women.”